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Nevada Supreme Court is asked to step into Washoe County fray over certification of recount results

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Two top officials in Nevada are asking the state Supreme Court to step into a fray over a vote earlier this week by Washoe County commissioners not to certify recount results in two local races.

Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar and Attorney General Aaron Ford filed a petition with the court Wednesday, seeking confirmation of the commissioners’ legal obligations when it comes to canvassing and certifying election results.

They also want the court to require the full commission to certify the recounts from last month’s primary no later than Aug. 22, when the statewide canvass must be complete to ensure the contents of general election ballots are finalized in accordance with Nevada law.

The certification flap has potential implications for how the November elections could play out in one of the nation’s most important swing counties.

Aguilar in a statement acknowledged that the circumstances in Nevada’s second most populous county could set “a dangerous precedent.”

“It is unacceptable that any public officer would undermine the confidence of their voters,” he said.

The three Republican members on the five-member Washoe County board voted Tuesday to reject the results of recounts in one race for a commission seat and another for a local school board seat. The move instantly spurred questions about what would happen next.

Aguilar and Ford followed the next day with a nearly 60-page petition. While not an emergency request, they noted in the filing that the court should act swiftly as “the legal and broader policy impacts of Respondents’ decision not to canvass election results are severe.”

It wasn’t immediately clear Thursday how soon the court would take up the petition.

It’s also possible the commission could vote again at its next meeting July 16, with a vote to certify heading off the pending request before the Supreme Court.

Once seen as a mundane and ministerial task, election certification has become a pressure point since the 2020 election. During the midterms two years later, a scenario similar to what is unfolding in Washoe County played out in New Mexico after that state’s primary, when a rural county delayed certification of the results and relented only after the secretary of state appealed to the state’s supreme court.

According to the petition, Nevada law makes canvassing election results — including recount results — by a certain date a mandatory legal duty for the county commission. It also states that commissioners have no discretion to refuse or otherwise fail to perform this duty.

Two of the Republican Washoe County commissioners — Jeanne Herman and Mike Clark — have consistently voted against certifying results and are supported by the wider movement within the county that promotes election conspiracy theories. Republican Clara Andriola, who that movement has targeted in the primaries, joined them in voting against certification of the recounts, one of which involved the primary race she won.

On Tuesday, Andriola referenced several “hiccups” by the elections department along with public comments that alleged irregularities in voting systems. She had said more investigation was needed.

However, the next morning she asked commission Chair Alexis Hill in an email if they could redo the vote on whether to certify the results from the two recounts.

Andriola declined to comment on how she will vote.

Hill on Wednesday commended Andriola for asking that commissioners vote again, saying she too has made bad votes and has asked for reconsideration. “None of us are perfect,” she said.

Barring an order from the Supreme Court, officials in the county — which includes Reno and surrounding areas — have said they do not know what concrete steps lie ahead in approving the results after last Tuesday’s vote.

Any commissioner on the prevailing side of the vote can request a reconsideration, which the commission chair can approve or reject. According to county statute, this can only happen at the meeting where the vote took place or the next commission meeting.

Hill expects a vote at the commission’s next meeting July 16.


Montoya Bryan reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Gabe Stern And Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press